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Rural Towns Are Scotland’s Life Blood, Says Scotland’s Improvement Districts Programme Director

Phil Prentice, Scotland’s Towns Partnership Chief Executive & National Programme Director of Scotland’s Improvement Districts, has said that small and rural towns must be a key part of any future economic strategy.

The Chief Executive of Scotland’s Towns Partnership (STP), Phil Prentice, has said that Scotland’s small and rural towns are critical to the country’s economic and social fabric, and they have to be a priority in any future economic strategy.

Speaking about STP’s Annual Parliamentary Reception (Tuesday 26 March), hosted by John Scott MSP, Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Towns, Prentice praised the work that many local communities and businesses are doing to regenerate their local town centres and develop action plans for the future.

He pointed to the revised Business Improvement Districts model, and the new £50 million Town Centre Fund announced by the Scottish Government as major opportunities for further growth in both small and rural towns. Prentice also highlighted the shift towards lifestyle service economies in local towns and the critical importance of infrastructure and connectivity.

STP is the national body for Scotland’s towns and all those who work to support the country’s towns and city districts; a hub to help people learn, connect, find practical support and advice, and share good practice and knowledge. The organisation’s deep rooted knowledge of the towns landscape and extensive range of services supports the Scottish Government’s ongoing commitment to secure a positive future for Scotland’s towns.

Communities Secretary, Aileen Campbell MSP said:

“Communities across Scotland are doing fantastic work in our towns. Whether it’s residents, businesses or local groups, it is communities who hold the knowledge and understanding of how their towns work and who have a long-term vested interest in getting things right. Their dedication, ambition and hard work has led to significant improvements in many of our towns.

“We continue to invest in community empowerment through a wide range of funds which support the regeneration of our towns. The Scottish Government is providing £50 million through the new Town Centre Fund 2019/20, set up in partnership with COSLA to enable local authorities to stimulate and support a wide range of investments to help our town centres diversify and flourish.”

The Chair of Scotland’s Towns Partnership, Professor Leigh Sparks, said:

“Much of the vitality and regeneration we are currently seeing in small and rural towns across Scotland is as a result of local businesses and communities taking it upon themselves to improve local economic conditions. Models such as Business Improvement Districts and other town centre forums are starting to deliver real impact in local towns, which must evolve with changing trends. It’s important that we take the time to thank them for all the work they do, and our annual reception in the Scottish Parliament seeks to celebrate their contribution.”

STP Chief Executive, Phil Prentice, said:

“The recent Scottish budget announcement providing £50 million for Town Centres to drive local economic activity and to stimulate and support place based economic improvements was a welcome respite against the challenging backdrop of ongoing retail closures and public sector shrinkage. We want our high streets and town centres across Scotland to be vibrant, creative, enterprising and accessible. These centres are at the heart of our communities and the lifeblood of our country so it is essential that we support them to become more diverse and sustainable.

“The question is what the future holds for these towns in the context of the decline in some of the major industries of the past. A closer look, however, highlights that the spirit of reinvention is very much alive. Some towns have totally reinvented – Wigtown as the Book Town, West Kilbride as the Craft Town, Kirkcudbright as the Art Town, Oban for Seafood, Dunoon and Fort William as outdoor leisure specialists. Towns like Inverurie, Prestwick, Gourock and Kilmalcolm are all beginning to see a strong rise in the growth of independent and high quality local niche retail.

“It is crucial that local and national Government continues to support the transition and evolution of Scotland’s small and rural towns given the challenges we face in business demographics and rural depopulation. As such, it is critical that a vision for our small and rural towns is at the centre of any Scottish economic strategy.”



  1. For media inquiries, contact Gareth Brown, / 07907 520 571
  2. More information on Scotland’s Towns Partnership can be found here.